An agency which specialises in land is calling on local councils to play a greater part in the push to create more affordable homes.
Aston Mead's comments follow a recent analysis of London Land Commission data, which indicated that 93% of brownfield sites in London are owned by local authorities.
The firm's director, Adam Hesse, says the only way cheaper homes will be built is if the land they are built on costs less.
“We can’t expect private landowners to reduce their profits by selling land at subsidised prices. So as the largest landowners in the country, it’s the councils which hold the key to solving the affordable housing crisis,” he says.
“They need to identify the brownfield sites they are currently sitting on, and make them available.”
Under the Housing and Planning Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, all local authorities will be required to keep up-to-date registers of publicly-owned brownfield land that could be suitable for development.
Hesse suggests that councils could start to act like residential property developers, perhaps in joint ventures with existing construction companies.
“One idea could be for councils to build 25% of their homes on their own land for housing benefit tenants, whilst retaining ownership of these properties,” he explains.
“This would prevent payments being made to ‘Rachman’ style landlords, whilst giving the council more control over those who are in genuine need of accommodation. The local authorities would also retain the value of their estates as long term investors.”
He adds that as councils are spending increasing amounts of money housing older people, some of the new properties should be built as sheltered accommodation.
Hesse says that his suggestions needn't just apply to the capital and that they could be carried out in locations across the UK.
“Local authorities are the only organisations that can deliver cheap land for affordable housing in the sort of quantities this country so desperately needs,” he says.